Royal Furniture Co.
1892 - 1931
Grand Rapids, Michigan
SEE ALSO Universal Tripod Co. (Listed below)
1892: Under the ownership of Alexander Hompe and Ralph P. Tietsort, Universal Tripod Co. becomes the Royal Furniture Co.
1901: A controlling interest in Royal is purchased by Robert W. Irwin.
1919: Irwin buys Hompe’s interest in Royal. Royal is combined with the Phoenix Furniture Co. to form the Robert W. Irwin Co. Production continues under Royal and Phoenix as well as Irwin names.
1931: Royal name is discontinued on Irwin furniture.
Royal was organized out of Julius Berkey’s Universal Tripod Co., although in 1898 both Julius and Charles Berkey are listed in the Grand Rapids City Directory as officers of Royal. Alexander Hompe and Ralph Tietsort were the company’s officers when Robert W. Irwin purchased controlling interest in Royal in 1900. In 1919 Irwin consolidated Royal into his new Robert W. Irwin Co.
Alexander Hompe served as the company’s head designer. J. Stuart Clingman designed special order furniture for the Tobey Furniture Co. in Chicago before becoming Royal’s assistant designer in 1903. Clingman made his mark in the modernization of forms by Hepplewhite and Sheraton. He stayed with Royal well after its reorganization as a division of the Robert W. Irwin Co.
Royal specialized in the manufacture of dining room, living room, library, and bedroom furniture “for persons of wealth, who wish a most distinguished home culture and refinement about reproach.” Pieces were expensive because of the amount of hand-painted decoration, marquetry, custom fabrics, and imported woods. Most production was in period revival styles, including Colonial, Duncan Phyfe, Sheraton, Chippendale, Hepplewhite, Adam, Spanish and Italian Renaissance, and Louis XIV and XV. Some Art Deco pieces were also introduced in the late 1920s. (For more detailed descriptions of post-1920 products, SEE Robert W. Irwin Co.)
Correspondence written by Alexander Hompe between 1889 and 1920 is in the collections of the Grand Rapids Public Museum. Some of the letters discuss the purchase of Universal Tripod and its conversion to the Royal Furniture Co.
MARKS AND LABELS
An early Royal ad shows the name of the company inside a flourished cartouche, which may have served as a trademark. Royal pieces by the mid-1920s carried a metal tag depicting a bust of George Washington, which read, “ROYAL FURNITURE CO./GRAND RAPIDS, MICH.” After the 1919 buy-out, the trademark was revised to read “ROYAL FURNITURE/MADE BY/ROBERT W. IRWIN CO.” Sometime in the 1930s, Irwin began to make use of an eye-shaped metal tag that read simply “IRWIN”.
Universal Tripod Co.
1887 – 1892
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Founded by Julius and C.H. Berkey, who patented the “universal tripod”. The company also manufactured light tables and easels, small writing desks, bric-a-brac cabinets, hall seats, and bedroom furniture in Aesthetic, turned bamboo, Louis XV, and English Arts and Crafts styles.
Predecessor to Royal Furniture Co.
The source, with permission of the author, is Grand Rapids Furniture: The Story of America’s Furniture City by Christian G. Carron, published by the Grand Rapids Public Museum. 1998.
Alexander W. Hompe
|Title||Royal Furniture Co.|
|Address||Grand Rapids, MI|